Saturday, June 14, 2008

Random thoughts on The Incredible Hulk, including lots of spoilers and nerdier observations

that I didn't want to include in my actual review (which you can read here). Don't proceed reading the rest of this post if you haven't seen the movie yet! It's not the greatest film ever made, but it is a pretty good one, and I'd hate to ruin it for anyone.

—For all the references to the TV show, there were a couple of elements and scenes that came right out of the comics.

Bruce Banner’s online conversations with a “Mr. Blue” recalled the Bruce Jones run on the monthly book.

There’s a nice scene between the Hulk and Liv Tyler’s Betty Ross that references a scene in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Hulk: Gray (there’s a straight panel-to-frame adaptation in this scene).

And there may even have been a riff on James Kochalka’s darling Hulk vs. the rain story (At least, there’s a scene of the Hulk yelling at a rain storm; it made me think of the Kochalka story).

—There seemed to have been a lot cut from the film, even since the time the trailers were being released. There are several scenes and exchanges of dialogue in some of the trailers that aren’t actually in the film.

—The film was fine, but I think it could actually have been a bit longer. The cave scene between the Hulk and Betty was just a little too fleet, and could have used some more attention to cement her recognition of the Banner inside the Hulk.

Later, when she attempts to calm the Hulk when he’s in a lab going through a process to cure him, the moment similarly seems to happen too fast. There’s no hesitation or consideration; she just jumps on top of him before one can even process what she’s doing or why.

I think Betty’s effect on the Hulk was supposed to have been the reason why his anger is focused enough that he becomes a heroic monster at the end instead of just a monster-monster, but too little attention was spent developing that. The transformation from monster to hero thus seemed a little sudden and forced.

—The Banner-can’t-have-sex-or-he’ll-Hulk-out conflict was a nice touch. Anger is always considered the trigger for the Hulk, but I kind of liked the idea that any kind of excitement could trigger it.

This adds Banner/Hulk into the long line of superheroes that either can’t or won’t have a girlfriend and/or sex.

And it adds a new layer of tragedy to Banner’s plight. I can’t imagine anything worse than making out with Liv Tyler in bed and then having to suddenly stop. That’s mental anguish—having Liv Tyler want to fool around with you, and being unable to do so for longer than, like, five seconds, for fear of turning into a rampaging monster.

—I love Liv Tyler’s bangs in this.

—I was super-psyched to hear the Hulk talking in this one. It’s been a while since I’ve rewatched the Ang Lee version, but I don’t recall that Hulk saying anything other than “RRRRAAAAUUUUGGGH!!!!” Except for during a, like, dream sequence or something.

He even said “Hulk smash!” at one point, which was awesome. I kind of wish he could have talked about himself a little more, though.

Early on, there’s that part where he tells the soldier guys chasing him around the soda pop factory to leave him alone. I think he says, "Leave me alone," but certainly "Leave Hulk alone" would have been better.

And when he defeats The Abomination and stands with his foot on his fallen foes chest and roars, wouldn’t that scene have been vastly improved by having Hulk bellow, “Hulk is the strongest one there is!”

I wouldn’t have minded a “Bah” or a “puny humans” here or there either.

—I suppose Hulk didn’t much call himself Hulk because it wasn’t his name for himself; he gets his name from a TV reporter, who quotes a douchebag college kid describing a monster as some sort of “hulk.”

That bit was pretty unnecessary. Since they glossed over the whole origin story, assuming we all knew enough about the story to not need more than a reminder of the basics—scientist, accident, monster—they could have just as easily assumed we knew the monster called itself Hulk.

—Likewise, The Abomination’s name comes about in a really roundabout way. Right before he gets Abominated, Tim Blake Nelson’s character is all like, “I don’t know what this could do, it could turn you into some kind of…abomination!” Heh. Subtle.

I guess the press materials must have referred to the fact that Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky turns into a Hulk-like monster called The Abomination, because I’ve seen plenty of critics refer to the monster by that name, even though it’s never used in the film itself (beyond TBN’s set-up).

Or perhaps there are just a lot more movie critics who read Marvel comics than I was previously aware of.

—I didn’t even recognize the name Samuel Sterns until Nelson gets some Hulk blood on his head, and it starts to get all bubbly. As I mentioned the other day, I’m rooting for a huge opening weekend for this just to see The Leader in the sequel.

—I also didn’t recognize Dr. Samson as Dr. Samson until afterwards, when I checked the credits.

Man, I am a terrible comic book nerd.

—Was there ever an in-comic explanation for where the Hulk’s extra mass comes from, and where it goes when he reverts to Banner? It occurred to me while watching one of his transformations that all of his bulk has to be coming from somewhere, right? I guess I never thought of it while reading the comics because the transformation usually happens between panels. Just curious; I’m not terribly well versed in Hulk comics.

—The name of the doctor on the WWII-era super-soldier serum doesn’t match the names of the doctor listed on Captain America’s Wikipedia page, although it does seem to be an anagram of one of them. What gives, Marvel Studios?

—I thought the super-soldier stuff worked pretty well, functioning as a wink-wink, nod-nod thing to comics readers, but without feeling forced on to the story at all.

—Was this Stan Lee’s most substantial role in a Marvel movie? It seemed like a particularly long one for him. Both he and Lou Ferigno have substantially beef-ed up roles compared to their awkward walk-by cameo in Ang Lee’s Hulk.

—I am both glad and disappointed that they did not show Stan Lee’s reaction to the sip of Hulk blood. A Hulk-ed out Stan Lee—just imagine!

—Speaking of Stan Lee, he had a cameo in this movie, playing an old man who drinks a tainted bottle of imported soda pop. He was also in Iron Man, playing Hugh Heffner (or some other old guy in a smoking jacket surrounded by young women). Unlike the previous Marvel character movies, both Incredible Hulk and Iron Man are understood to occur in the same, shared universe, as little details like the presence of SHIELD and Tony Starks few lines of dialogue clearly indicate.

It seems clear that in the future, Marvel Studios will continue to tease this connection in their future movies (Iron Man II, Thor, Captain America) and then when The Avengers comes out, all those characters will team-up for the biggest superhero movie of all time.

But if Stan Lee cameos in each of those, playing a different character, then you know what that means? It means that in the movie Marvel Universe there are, like, at least a half-dozen guys who look just like Stan Lee!

—I might be the only person in the world, but I’d prefer to see a Defenders movie over an Avengers one.


John Cochrane said...

Good overview. Makes me want to see it that much more.

I'd rather see Invaders over the Avengers.

snell said...

Caleb...I don't recall an in-comic explanation, but I do recall ye old Marvel Universe Handbook from the 80's saying something along the line of his somehow drawing the extra mass from an "extra-dimensional" source...that was sorta their standard pseudo-science explanation for any character who gained/lost mass with their powers.

Re: the length...somewhere I saw the director saying there was about an hour's worth of footage that didn't make the final cut, but would be on the DVD. Presumably a bunch of that would be in the "origin" section...

Steven said...

I wouldn't worry too much about Stan Lee-multiple man.

Peter Parker has run into three different guys who all look remarkably like Brisco County Jr.

Anonymous said...

So Stan Lee was right in the Simpsons when he said he's turned into the Hulk before.

SallyP said...

Frankly a Defenders movie with Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk would be simply fabulous.

I want a Nextwave movie, but it would probably only work in animation.

miss-tress said...

I think Stan's turn as Willie Lumpkin in the 'Fantastic Four' was more substantial then his one line in 'The Incredible Hulk'.

Kara Z L said...

I always assumed the mass came converted directly from (gamma?) energy. Don't ask me about the science of that though. Comic book physics are for fun.

But the Project Rebirth canister General Ross pulled out of the freezer was marked "Reinstein", so what's problem? That was the doctor's code name.

Hahah, don't those government boys know yet that the serum will make you go bonkers if you don't get the Vita-Rays with it? I guess the scriptwriters didn't bother being that comic geek, because in the movie, Ross didn't seem the type to knowingly screw over one of his one men that badly. Blonsky just got power hungry, BWAHAHAHA.

The audience in my theatre clapped when you-know-who walked in at the end!

Patrick C said...

Yeah, I missed the first few lines of you-know-who's dialogue because the clapping and cheering was so loud.

houseofduck said...

I would love to see a Defenders movie but only if they include Hellcat,Nighthawk and Valkyrie!

Kevin Huxford said...

I went to a midnight showing Thursday night and reaction was alright. You'd figure the die hards would be the most enthused. But I walked into a showing of it while waiting for my showing of THE HAPPENING (oh boy) and the crowd at a 3:40pm Saturday showing seemed more geek-enthused. There were applause when he did that sonic clap. APPLAUSE. For that. When the Hulk Smash came, fahgedaboudit. ;)

austin said...

dont we know that the perfect super soldier is made through a revolutionary fitness routine and a healthy diet? MVP would of knocked hulk on his

Anonymous said...

In Iron Man, according to the credits, Stan Lee played...

Stan Lee.
The man gets around.

Anonymous said...

I too would like to see a Defenders movie ... but no damned Hellcat!

As for the difficulties posed by "excitement", I really think the next line was gonna be "Don't make me horny. You wouldn't like me when I'm horny."

chris said...

"he gets his name from a TV reporter, who quotes a douchebag college kid describing a monster as some sort of “hulk.”"

One of the college douchebags is named Jack McGee, and he's a 'reporter' for the school newspaper.

Shaun said...

You aren't the only one! I would love a Defenders movie ... especially if, in addition to the Big Three, they worked in Valkyrie, Hellcat, and Nighthawk somehow.

Anonymous said...

The Super-Soldier serum container was from Dr. Reinstein, which was what Dr. Erskine was called in the original Golden Age story and has since been retconned into his government code name in the comics proper. I thought that was a nice touch, myself.

Hulk's extra mass comes from the Microverse, doesn't it? Same as Hank Pym. I've often suspected it came from Jarella's realm specifically.

I assume that the government didn't figure out the Vita-Ray bit until years later. Remember they tried the serum alone with no Vita-Rays in the 50s on that particular nutjob and that turned out... poorly. Of course, that makes Blonsky more sympathetic than I'd like...

Anonymous said...

"And when he defeats The Abomination and stands with his foot on his fallen foes chest and roars, wouldn’t that scene have been vastly improved by having Hulk bellow, “Hulk is the strongest one there is!”"


aaron said...

I was thinking the exact same thing about the Defenders movie after seeing this ... then I realized that a movie based on the ULTIMATE defenders from Ultimates II would be just amazing, with or without Hank Pym.